Sitake On Opening Season With Utah: ‘It’s Added Something For Our Players’
PROVO, Utah – Kalani Sitake is preparing for his fourth rivalry game as head coach of BYU.
In his previous three meetings against the Utes, Sitake and his BYU teams have yet to come away victorious.
This year is a different wrinkle to the historic rivalry game. For the first time in the history of BYU versus Utah, the game is opening the season for both teams.
“To have it the first game of the year, it’s kind of added a little bit of something for our players and their preparation,” Sitake said on KSL Newsradio’s Cougar Sports Saturday. “I think we should do it every year at the beginning if it gets our guys focused so well and have them preparing as intently as they are.”
BYU players are motivated to end the eight-game losing streak to the Utes. The team breaks the huddle with ‘Beat Utah’ after every practice. Signage on the doors leading to the practice fields read, ‘Beat Utah.’ But it’s going to take a complete effort to spring the upset against the No. 14 team in the nation on Thursday night.
“They’ve never been like this before. I like to give the credit that the rivalry is such a huge game to these guys and it’s important,” said Sitake. “The fact that we ended last year with that game, they want to get back at it. So I think it just kind of worked out for us. Now that we recognize that the goal is to try and simulate that every year and have that happen with the preparation in the off-season.”
Sitake continued, “But not only that, let’s do this, this feeling that we have going into the Utah game and try to duplicate it another 11 times and hope we get another shot on playing together as a team.”
The placement of the rivalry game has been a debate since the two programs went their separate ways in 2011 with Utah going to the Pac-12 and BYU declaring their football independence.
"I think this is a healthy rivalry and I think there are a lot of great people on both sides of this thing."
-BYU head coach Kalani Sitake on Cougar Sports Saturday
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) August 24, 2019
Last year’s rivalry game was the regular-season finale for both teams, and it was underwhelming in terms of excitement and buildup. Utah was likely overlooking BYU as they had already clinched the Pac-12 South Division title and BYU had nothing on the line by already clinching bowl eligibility.
This year, both teams are dialed in and wanting to get off to fast starts to open their respective seasons. It’s the perfect spot for the BYU-Utah game going forward.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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